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Iraqi ferry mishap death toll rises to 100
AFP, Baghdad
Almost 100 people, mostly women and children, died Thursday as a ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year sank in a swollen river in the former terrorist stronghold of Mosul, in Iraq's worst accident in years.
There was an outpouring of grief among residents who only this year resumed the annual festivities on the banks of the Tigris after the northern city's recapture from the ISIS. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning as he visited the site of the tragedy. He ordered a swift investigation "to determine responsibilities".

US-backed Syrian force still battling IS
Reuters, Qamishli
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battled Islamic State militants holed up in the Baghouz area overnight, supported by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, the SDF said, seeking to defeat the last pockets of jihadist resistance.
The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat Islamic State at the Baghouz enclave in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border, all that remained of the territory the militants ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.

US sanctions Chinese ships over North Korea sanctions
AFP, Washington
The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on two Chinese shipping companies for doing business with North Korea, vowing to keep strictly enforcing sanctions on Pyongyang even amid top-level diplomacy.
"The maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea's illicit shipping practices," national security adviser John Bolton tweeted after the Treasury Department's announcement.

HK to build $79b artificial lsland to fix housing shortage
AFP, Hong Kong
Hong Kong plans to build one of the world's largest artificial islands with an eye-watering $79 billion price tag, city officials announced Tuesday.
The government's HK$624 billion proposal to reclaim 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of land around the territory's largest island, Lantau, has been touted as a solution to the pressing housing shortage in the city, which is notorious as one of the least affordable markets on the planet.

Grenade blast
outside Russian consulate in Greece
AFP, Athens
A grenade exploded early Friday outside the Russian consulate in Athens without hurting anyone, police said, an attack typical of domestic far-left groups.
The area in the Athens suburb of Halandri was rapidly cordoned off and bomb specialists were dispatched, a police source said.
Police said the grenade had exploded but caused no injuries as the consulate was closed at the time.

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US envoy says Kabul, Taliban in first prisoner exchange talks

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